Chicago Book Artist visits MSU

Carousels. Triangles. Flags.

Karen Hanmer knows about all three. The artist and book binder has made books of all kinds – carousel books, triangle books, and flag books among them – on topics ranging from her family to the Wright Brothers to the cosmos.

During her February visit to Michigan State University, the Chicago-based artist gave a talk, conducted a workshop and visited the RCAH Book Arts class.

Eric Alstrom, head of the MSU Library’s conservation and preservation unit, co-teaches the Book Arts class with several others, including RCAH professor Anita Skeen, letterpress printer Arie Koelewyn and Special Collections librarian Patrick Olson.  

Alstrom first met Hanmer through the Guild of Book Workers.

“It was our mutual interest in the book arts that brought us together,” Alstrom said, adding that he first became interested in book binding during his time in graduate school. “Being surrounded by other people who are creative and seeing other binders doing creative work just got me to experiment around.”

Alstrom said they decided to invite Hanmer to the class because her work – which often centers on family and society – relates to this year’s Book Arts theme: family histories and personal biographies.

Emily Quinlan, RCAH freshman, attended the workshop and is taking the class.

“With book arts, you have to think about everything and do all your measurements. It’s time consuming, but you get great end products,” she said.

Quinlan said she really enjoyed Hanmer's visit.

“It was great because she talked a lot about how she made her work and how she sold it and made this into an actual living,” Quinlan said. Now, the 19-year-old is hoping to make triangle books for her friends as gift.

Story and images by RCAH student Kelsey Block.